Welcome to January! Of all the months, January is my absolute favorite – with all its clean slates and fresh starts and uncluttered surfaces. I also love that it immediately follows the holiday season, where everything is more cluttered than usual (most notably, slates and surfaces.)
One of my personal treasured traditions of January is to read through my journal and capture some of my biggest revelations from the previous year. This helps me determine where I’ve been so I can make sound decisions about where I’m going.
“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
So, without further adieu, here’s a list of highlights and lessons, both big and small, from my 2018.
In 2018, I turned 50 years old, celebrated my 25th wedding anniversary, accomplished 10 years of blogging, and went through menopause. It was definitely a year of milestones.
I also lost my brother, which was a sudden loss that left me profoundly sad. I miss him.
I only wrote ELEVEN blog posts last year, which I’m fairly certain is an all-time low. And I didn’t realize until this very moment that I never wrote a “What I Learned in 2017” post??? (I did write a long “What I Learned in 10 Years of Blogging” post in March, so that kinda counts).
My lack of blogging was not a lack of writing, though:
I kicked off 2018 with a short, daily email the entire month of January that went out to my subscribers.
I made a little progress on the writing of my next Bible study, organizing all the material into chapters and writing the intro.
I did some speaking and appeared as a guest on the radio and podcasts (more on that in a minute).
I submitted some writing for publication on other sites.
I continued to write a monthly newsletter to the women at my local church.
I continued to lead a weekly Fall and Spring Bible study locally.
And for the last several months, I posted daily to The Scoop on Balance Facebook Page.
This year has been very full and very good in many ways. In fact, as I reflect, my conclusion is this: 2018 didn’t suck. (Ha!) I’ve had some challenging years recently, so my standards are fairly low. Circumstances in life are always shifting, but God is teaching me to lean into Him for strength and wisdom like never before.
Here’s a highlight reel of what I learned last year.
1) I learned what it means to “Abide.”
This was my word for 2018. I didn’t choose it, It chose me. Actually, it chased me down and tackled me, and then it wrestled me until it let me go — but not before it completely changed me.
Last year, I buried my face and my heart in the 15th chapter of the Gospel of John for months where I studied what it means to abide in the Vine. Then I stepped back to get a broader view and dug into the entire Gospel of John. I studied it line-by-line all summer, privately. Then I taught “Abide” at our annual Women’s Retreat in the Fall. Then I taught the entire Gospel of John line-by-line to the women at my church over 13 weeks until Christmas.
It’s still changing me. I’ll never be the same.
Here is the bracelet I wore every day in 2018 to remind me to abide in Christ. To order a similar bracelet with your own word, click the photo or here.
2) Speaking of that retreat, I learned I CAN organize and speak at the same retreat but I will never, ever, ever (ever!) do that again.
Let’s just say that I didn’t intend on speaking at our women’s retreat last year, so I started out being the planner-girl. But when “Abide” tackled me and wrestled me down, I knew I was also supposed to teach it (reluctantly, I might add). By that time, it was too late to hand off the planning part, so I just did both.
Gosh, it was exhausting. Thankfully, I had a great team and didn’t carry it entirely alone. But in the weeks leading up to the event, I found myself creating various flyer inserts for the folders, fielding all the last minute phone calls, texts, and emails, creating Power Point presentations with animations, AND practicing my 3 speaking sessions. It took me a few weeks to recover from that. Next time, I’m praying God gives me a different speaker or a different planner-person or, at the very least, a Power Point person. I know a lot of women who thrive working at that pace, but I’m not one of them.
3) I learned how to create a Power Point presentation with animations.
4) I learned to pay attention.
This was a phrase that kept popping up all over the place in 2018. Pay attention to how I feel. Pay attention to how people respond to what I say and do. Pay attention to my inner gut feeling. Pay attention to scripture that leaps off the page. Pay attention to how food affects me.
I don’t fully understand why I should be paying such close attention, but I am discovering that this is how God seems to be directing my steps as I discern my next right thing.
5) I learned everything takes longer than I think it will.
Herein lies an old balance issue rearing its ugly head: I try to cram more into my day than what I can actually do. Day after day, I set out to complete a task — anything from cleaning my house to grocery shopping to running an errand to completing a writing assignment — and I never, ever complete it in the time I’ve allowed myself. Maybe this has always been true for me, but I’m really noticing it more than ever in 2018 (maybe because I’m paying attention?).
I realize this is the very definition of poor time management. But I prefert to call it “optimism.”
6) I learned that backsliding into habitual lateness is easy to do.
Years ago, I intentionally and successfully overcame the terribly rude habit of running late for everything. Lately, I’m running late for every single thing, every single day. I hate it. Sadly, my “optimism” has sucked me back into being a Late Person. I’m actively working on changing this habit.
7) I learned that turning 50 wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be.
My 40s were really hard — parenting was especially challenging, our marriage went through some giant rough patches, I lost my dad and my brother, my metabolism came to a screeching halt — so I was actually happy to close the door on that decade.
Here’s me and my BFF celebrating my 50th in Nashville. Cool effects compliments of Jennie’s old phone.
8) I learned that eating a ketogenic diet is horrible for me.
This is something Jon and I started in 2017 and carried into 2018. Before diving in, I joined an on-line ketogenic group, read all the material, watched all the training videos, subscribed to ketogenic podcasts, and read 3 books. Then I followed the eating plan to a T, because I take my eating plans very seriously. It started out fine…I lost 11 pounds rather effortlessly (a shrinking butt is always a nice incentive to continue a new eating plan).
But I constantly felt sluggish and shaky, especially during exercise.
As the weeks and months went on, and I started to realize that eating a high-fat, low carb, moderate protein diet was a pain in my shrinking butt – especially when eating out at restaurants. The choices are so limited, because most places don’t serve healthy fats. At home, I turned to eggs, nuts, cheese, coconut oil, and bullet-proof coffee…every single meal, every single day. I hated rationing out my fruit allotment for the day. I hated rationing out food at all. I missed eating bananas and brown rice and oatmeal. Eating became mechanical and joyless. And I couldn’t maintain that 11-pound weight loss without regular bone broth fasting.
Then my annual physical revealed what was happening on the inside: my blood pressure, my triglycerides, and my cholesterol were all high for the first time in my life. My weight kept inching up and my joints ached. My doctor asked what I was doing differently, and when I told her “ketogenic” she said, “Your body hates this.” (Yay!!!)
9) I learned that eating a plant-based diet is wonderful for me.
So, in May of 2018, I did an about-face, chucked the whole ketogenic philosophy, and went completely plant-based. After avoiding grains and fruit for an entire year, I felt like a kid at Christmas! Bread? Bananas? Rice? Oatmeal? Yes, please!
Within 2 weeks, my weight went back down, my energy soared, my hot flashes stopped, and my joint pain decreased. After 3 months eating a completely whole foods plant-based diet, my hair and skin glowed like never before and I felt amazing. I went back to the same doctor for my annual physical, and all my values went back down to normal range. She said, “Your numbers look GREAT! What are you doing?” When I told her I was plant-based, she said, “Your body loves this. Keep doing it.” (Yay!)
I now eat a giant green salad every single day, which makes meal-planning simple. And I eat fruits and veggies without restriction. I haven’t felt better in years.
(P.S. Over the holidays, I veered off the plant-based road because: cookies, lasagna, wine…Boy, am I feeling it – weight gain, sluggishness, hot flashes, joint aches. I did enjoy taking a break to make and eat holiday treats, but I learned that I love feeling good much more than I enjoy eating treats.)
10) I learned how to make my own almond milk.
When I stopped using dairy in my coffee, I decided to try making my own substitute. It’s super-easy and it tastes delicious. You can Google an easy recipe (that’s what I did.) But just for fun, I may post it here in a future blog post.
11) I learned that New York City is both amazing and overwhelming.
Jon and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary by taking a trip to The Big Apple. I had never been there, so everything about it was new to me.
Amazing things for me include the food (it was very easy to maintain my plant-based eating there because the food options are endless!), the culture, the art, and Central Park (my absolute favorite).
Overwhelming things for me include the crowds, the noise, and the hustle. I hated that fact that making eye-contact with humans on the street meant that someone was going to try to hand me a brochure for a bus tour or try to get me to buy their homemade CD of rap music or drag me into their street performance.
My husband navigated the streets the way he navigates the highways – looking for the fastest lane and darting in and out of traffic. This meant I spent a week chasing him through crowded sidewalks, which left me agitated and exhausted. One of the most miserable hours of my life was spent crammed on a subway train on the way back from a Yankee’s game with my face pressed up into a man’s armpit.
I hated feeling like there were “rules” that I didn’t know: Tourists vs. Locals, and I was most definitely a tourist (apparently, stopping on the sidewalk is frowned upon. And I need a step-by-step tutorial for navigating the subway system).
Granted, this was also the week after my brother died, so I was dealing with a tremendous amount of grief on that trip.
I think I’d like to give NYC another chance and go to some of the areas that are off the beaten path and away from Times Square. But as it stands today, NYC is not my jam.
12) I learned that selling a book is hard work.
In September of 2017 I published my first book, Finding Your Balance. Writing and self-publishing a book is the very definition of “hard work.” But the writing and publishing part is just the beginning. That book must get into the hands of the people who need it or all that writing and publishing is for nothing.
Much like giving birth to a child, the pregnancy and delivery is one kind of hard – raising that child is a whole ‘nother kind of hard!
So, think of writing the book as pregnancy, publishing as delivering the baby, and marketing as raising the child.
Thus, I decided to delegate this ginormous task of raising my book baby to my marketing team. As it turns out, the marketing team is me.
13) I learned that radio and podcasts are my jam.
This one totally came out of left field. My friend Cheryl, who hosts a local radio show, asked me to be a guest to discuss my book. I had never been on the radio before and had no idea what I was doing. But sitting down with her for that interview felt as natural as anything I’ve ever done. This gave me confidence to pitch to several podcasts. The whole process is a blast. Podcasting is definitely something I’m exploring further in 2019.
14) I learned that Voxer is so fun!
While I was pitching podcasts, several hosts asked if they could contact me on Voxer. I was all, “Sure…I’m on Voxer.” (WHAT THE CRAP IS VOXER?!? *types “What is Voxer” into search engine*)
Turns out, it’s a message app where you can leave long voice memos for people and they can listen at their convenience. But it’s better than voice mail, because you can interject and respond mid-message, and also text and send photos. It’s like texting and voicemail had a baby; a little like a walkie talkie, but the messages stay there for the recipient to hear whenever. For those times when it’s too much to type, but you don’t want to get stuck on the phone in a conversation. I love it.
Thank you so much for all your support in 2018. I know I say this a lot, but I don’t take for granted that you continue to show up whenever I write something. For the month of January, I’ll be stepping away from the online space so I can pray about 2019. I do have a guest post lined up in a few weeks so look for that. Otherwise, I’ll talk with you next month!
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